Four Undefeated Squads Set to Collide in the 13U Champs NC Semifinals After High-Scoring Quarterfinals on Wednesday

ZT National, Stacked National, Elite RBI National, and Banditos rolled as the postseason began at the 13U National Team Championships in North Carolina. Read about how each team reached the Semifinals, and what sets them apart.

ZT National Prospects 8, Cali National Baseball Academy 3

ZT National Prospects booked its spot in the 13U Champs NC semifinals with an 8-3 win over Sports Academy Cali National on Wednesday morning, blasting seven runs in the first inning and never looking back. Easton O’Quinn opened the game with an RBI single, followed by Tre Lawrence driving in another pair of runs with a double into left. A bases loaded walk made it 4-0, before a pair of RBI singles from Brandon Manivong and Charlie Blalock furthered the lead to six. ZT National’s second bases-loaded walk gave the team a 7-0 lead before the end of the first inning. ZT’s eighth run came in the third inning, as Blalock tallied his second RBI on a double. On the mound for the victors, Ivan Ortiz pitched the final 5.1 innings and shut down any potential comeback bids from Cali National as he allowed just two baserunners and struck out another pair.

One of three teams sitting at 4-0 entering Thursday’s semifinals, ZT National is the only team in the field that has topped the 30 runs scored mark so far in Cary. Leading the field with a whopping 38 runs scored in four games, ZT National is also tied for the fewest runs allowed with just five. Speaking postgame on Wednesday, head coach Carlos Avila explained that the message to the team all week has been a simple one.

“The message to the team has been to compete. It can get old and overused, but I think that's something that they have to learn. No matter what they do in life, they have to compete hard. It doesn't change. If you play hard and do the right things, you're going to be successful.”

ZT National has been playing hard and doing all the right things since the team’s opener on Sunday. After knocking off the East Coast Sox 11-1, Avila’s squad knocked off Team Elite National 8-0 on Sunday afternoon and RJBA 13U WADE 11-1 on Monday. Making the jump to postseason play on Wednesday didn’t phase ZT National at all.

“I think the biggest message was to just play as a team, play together, play hard and jump on a run early. We were lucky enough to go out there and do that today. It was good to see.”

Playing as a team has been the approach both offensively and on the mound. At the plate, no player has recorded multiple hits in more than one game. Yet, like a well-oiled machine, ZT National continues to pile up runs. Tre Lawrence has two games with at least two RBIs, with five of his teammates reaching that mark or more in a game so far.

It’s been a collective effort by ZT National’s pitching staff as well. Avila has used three pitchers in three of four games so far, and in two of those games his squad has only allowed four or fewer hits. The exception is the 11-1 opening win over East Coast Sox, where Noah Jarolimek and Nathan Handley-White combined for a four-inning no-hitter.

Heading into Thursday’s semifinal matchup against Banditos, Avila wants his team to keep the same mindset. The way they’ve been playing, it’s a matter of just keeping things going.

“Just finish. That's the message. Finish. We have to play as a team, and if we do that, we'll be okay.”

Banditos 9, East Coast Sox 1

Banditos erupted in the third and fourth innings in a 9-1 win over East Coast Sox, scoring eight runs over that two-inning span in a game that ended after five. Banditos struck first in the second inning on a fielder’s choice, and it wouldn’t take long for them to hit their stride at the plate. An error, RBI single from Ty Chambless, and a sac fly made it 4-0 in favor of the Banditos in the third inning. Another five runs came in in the fourth inning, first through a bases-loaded walk and a two-RBI single from Major Ciers. Now up 7-1, Dylan Mercado slashed the second RBI-single of the inning for the Banditos to cap off the final score.

For many, the pressures of getting to the championship game can force one to crack, but Coach Chase Taylor has full confidence in his squad and rightfully so as his squad boasts an average run differential of plus-3.75.

“We've been in these situations quite a bit over the last three years, it's something that they're built for. It's nothing new to them, and so I don’t have to tell them much when they get into moments like this. We’re ready for it,” said Taylor postgame on his team's preparation for big moments.

While cruising through pool play and advancing to the semifinals is important for the Banditos, Taylor has his eyes set on something more: the gold.

“Pool play is fun, but we come here with expectations of making a bracket and winning. They're built for it,” said Taylor. “We’ve put them in as many different scenarios as we can throughout the year so when we get into big events in the summer like this they're ready for it. It's nothing new to them. It's a testament to their own preparation.”

As for heading into tomorrow's semi final contest, Coach Taylor had no shortage of energy and trust in his squad. He knows his team is adequately prepared for the moment and wants them to believe in themselves.

“Dream big. It would be good for us. I always tell them the hay is in the barn. What we are is what we are. We're ready to go,” said Taylor. “In baseball you have peaks and valleys. Right now offensively, I wouldn’t say we are peaking, I'm sure we're gonna break out tomorrow and put on a show.”

Stacked National 8, Dirtbags National 2

Stacked National moved to 4-0 and advanced to the semifinals with an 8-2 win over the Dirtbags, plating six runs in the fourth inning alone to pull away. Going down 1-0 in the top of the first inning, Stacked National got a pair of runs in the bottom of the first on a pair of bases loaded walks to take a 2-1 advantage. The squad’s discipline at the plate was immaculate in the fourth inning, drawing another two walk-in runs before a hit-by-pitch and two wild pitches led to another three scores coming in. Up 7-1, Stacked National got its eighth and final run on an RBI single from Dylan Tucci. Darren Luber went the first 5.0 innings for the winning side, collecting the win as he retired eight batters and allowed four hits with a lone earned run.

Tied with ZT National with just five runs allowed in four games, Stacked National sports a superb plus-22 run differential. Opening with an 11-1 win over SC Panthers Marucci on Sunday morning, Stacked National rolled to a 5-1 over National Select Blanco that afternoon before taking down Sports Academy Cali National on Monday 3-1.

On the mound, Stacked National has used at least three pitchers in all four games. The staff has allowed just three hits or fewer in three of four games, with the exception being six hits allowed against the Dirtbags. Head coach Kyle Davis explained that his side just needs to keep minimizing walks and attacking hitters going forward, and Stacked National will continue to roll.

Offensively, Blake Barberena and Dylan Tucci have been the leaders so far with two games each of two hits. What makes Stacked National dangerous at the plate is the team’s discipline; the lineup has been terrific with drawing walks and setting up scenarios with runners in scoring position as a result.

“The boys are playing good ball by minimizing errors and being aggressive at the plate, scoring runs,” Davis said. “We're not going to veer off of our plan. We're going to stay aggressive and keep playing hard.”

Elite RBI National 1, SBA Bolts National 0

Elite RBI National advanced to the semifinals and moved to 4-0 with a tight 1-0 win over SBA Bolts Nationals, plating the sole run of the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Cameron Hockett slashed a line drive single into center, sending the winning run home from second. Cote Tullos was impeccable on the mound for RBI National, going all seven innings as he allowed just four hits and retired three batters.

While hitting has pushed RBI National to the semifinals, registering games of 12 and 10 runs, it was Cote Tullos on the mound that gave Elite the advantage over the Bolts.

“It was probably the best I've seen him. Today, his mechanics were really clean. When he throws strikes, his arm is as good as anyones in the country. He's got a big run on his fastball, and we just taught him a change up. He’s just unbelievable. And today, he had both of those working,” head coach Scott Marquardt said.

When speaking postgame about his team's trip to the semifinals, Marquardt doesn’t believe the moment will be too big for his squad due to the maturity and experience.

“We’ve played in all of the big tournaments with all of the big games,” Marquardt stated. “The guys stay pretty locked in. When you're playing good teams like that, you expect those types of tight games. Our guys do a really good job. I don't really have to do much with them. They're special kids.”

At the end of the day, Marquardt wants his team to take the moment in and soak in all of the memories that will be made on their journey. He wants his team to enjoy, and knows they will take care of business in the semifinals.

“Being here at USA Baseball is special in itself. It's a beautiful complex too. It’s an honor and privilege to be here. As far as big moments, we’ve been in them before. They know what to do so in the morning, they'll be ready to play,” said Marquardt.